Life Lessons from the Great Books

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A History of Freedom These courses are wonderful! Dr. Fears is among the best professsors!
Date published: 2020-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life Lessons from the Great Books Outstanding course. Interesting division and examples of ‘life lessons’ Dr. Fears is a brilliant professor. Enjoying. Learning lots. Several friends ordered the course and we are getting together to discuss.
Date published: 2020-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was my best course to date. J Rufus Fears is a wonderful storyteller. He is passionate about his subjects and drew me in fron the very first lessonl
Date published: 2020-03-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Fundamentalist preacher Professor Fear often takes the role of the person being reported. He sounds like a regular, middle-class American. This was a technique employed by numerous preachers which I endured growing up. Appealing to the non-intellectual.
Date published: 2020-03-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not enough about Books and not enough Great I had great expectations for this course, but was almost immediately struck by how inconsistent Prof. Fears was in his presentation. He describes his rationale for what constitutes a Great Book but often breaks his own criteria both in his selections of books (or often no book at all) and even within a book. For example, he presents Teddy Roosevelt's autobiography as a great book (really??) and then explains how important it is to be true to your word, as he claims Roosevelt was in saying he would not run again for President after he was elected in 1904. He seems to ignore that Roosevelt broke his word by then running in 1912! Prof. Fears uses various criteria about how a book is chosen (written well, speaks to all eras, etc) and the chooses George Washington and George Patton for lectures when neither even wrote a book! Sometimes it seems like he is more interested in people, such as Patton and Lawrence, because of the movies made about them, then any book at all. His values are suspect. The course is more about people he wants to use as examples than of books they wrote.
Date published: 2020-03-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Great Books of Patriarchy I kept plugging through this course despite my mounting irritation. Unless I missed something, it was exclusively about men, written from the comfortable perspective of a white male of a certain generation, about books and speeches made by men for men. Granted that the emphasis was deliberately on Western culture (although I don't recall that being made explicit) and that treatises by women are difficult to come by (ancient Greece and Rome and medieval Europe as well as early modern Western states did not provide an atmosphere conducive to or accepting of women intellectuals), but there is material to draw on if one were so inclined to look for it. My irritation stemmed from his repeated attempts to give nods in that direction by appending the two words "and women" whenever he referred to the history of man or the impact of the works he discussed on men in general. I could imagine him dusting his hands and saying "that takes care of inclusivity." Also irritating was the heavy emphasis on the glories of war and battle and on Christianity. I found it pedantic. One thing I did like was the discussion of Washington's farewell address, which was alarmingly prophetic.
Date published: 2020-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rufus Fears is a truly great man and one of the great teachers of all time! Everyone on earth should listen to all of his lectures!
Date published: 2019-10-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Has A Pompous Sound I enjoy the great majority of Great Courses that I've bought. I rarely write a negative review. But I think if I won't listen beyond 4 out of 36 lectures, I don't have much choice. In theory this should be a great course. In practice there are some fundamental hurdles to overcome: trying to portray the cumulative impact of a multivolume work like "The Jewish Wars" for example, or works from cultures now remote, in a half-hour lecture would be daunting. But chiefly it is the delivery style that bothered me here. The lecturer strives for drama and emphasis in delivery, but a constantly slow-paced and pontific tone ended up sounding affected and boring. This lecturer is likely to produce strong reactions one way or the other: some listeners may love the style. I did not.
Date published: 2019-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Insights! Prof. Fears, who passed away at age 67 in 2012, was a Harvard-trained classicist whose academic interest was in the classical world but whose true gift was as an apostle of freedom. Of his many courses for the Teaching Company, I think this one shows him at his fullest advantage. Not only has he identified an outstanding list of "great books," but he offers insightful moral instruction from each book that can provide guidance in our daily lives. Prof. Fears will not appeal to everyone; he is urgent, passionate, and opinionated, and his lectures will ramble, but he has a one-of-a-kind presence that demands your attention, and his knowledge of his subject matter is impressive. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2019-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Recommended! I just started the course and is midway. It is so far so good. I am sure there are other books this professor has not included in his teachings, but when will this list of books end? He speaks well on his topics, choosing what he thinks is effective as a whole in books to learn. I would recommend this course to anyone.
Date published: 2019-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vivid Immersion in Words and Ideas After spending 18 hours with the late Professor Fears (he passed in 2012) in this engaging course, I genuinely miss the man! He had a way of drawing you into the stories he relates in each of these 36 lectures that I found truly remarkable. I watched each lecture with growing respect for the expanse of the professor's knowledge as well as a true appreciation for his insights into human nature (which, as he points out -- and laments noting our repeated mistakes -- has clearly not changed over thousands of years). He does a superb job of giving greater understanding to the text central to each lecture by presenting us with the biographical and social-historical context of the author and his/her world. He also has organized the course with some major themes in mind, and helpfully reminds us of the continuity over the centuries of those themes even as they are explored differently. Importantly, he does not present, nor does he believe there is any value in, some kind of "canon of great books." While some of the works covered in this text can be found in most other attempts to do so -- for example, in the writings of the great Greek playwrights as well as the thoughts of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero -- others are must less known or mentioned, such as a comedy by Machiavelli or the journeys of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the early 19th century. I was thoroughly engaged by each lecture, and his closing one is worth the price of the entire lecture series by itself! If you love great ideas and themes, respect peoples of other times and places, and hunger for words and thoughts that are ennobling, then you might dip your toes into the pleasant waters of this course. Lastly, I do understand some of the misgivings expressed by other reviewers about Dr. Fears for, after having taken a couple of years ago his course "The Wisdom of History," some of his lectures left me feeling that he had been over-simplistic, moralistic, and too in-your-face Christian. In fairness, I now better realize that yes, he does stress moral "lessons" because he thinks they are central to acquiring the "wisdom by which we guide our lives," a point with which I heartily concur. And, yes, he does sometimes seem "simplistic," but I now better understand that this is his way of distilling what he believes to be the essential lesson(s) from the persons and texts he is discussing. (All of the best teachers know that if we are to take anything with us from their courses, then they must use the tools of repetition, clarity, and distillation of major points.) As to his "Christianity," I better understand from this course that what he values is the way of life that Jesus taught, essentially the Golden Rule with positive emphases, and not dogmatic teachings. In the lectures that constitute this course he demonstrates great knowledge of, and respect for, the ethics of the ancient Greeks and Romans as well as those of Christians and Muslims -- again, he finds and emphasizes their great commonalities in attempting to establish those moral principles by which men and women can live their lives with honor and dignity. Dr. Fears teaches with a profound compassion that ultimately overwhelmed what nit-picking I might have once been tempted to make. I came to realize that I was in the presence of a master teacher and story-teller and so I wisely decided to settle in, relax, and drink it all in. I am glad that I did!
Date published: 2019-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from as usual great from the GC I bot this a month of so ago and am part way through. It is always surprising how many truths are so old, old, and yet we do not seem to learn to digest and act on them. Well delivered and a great sub from usual TV while ironing clothes.
Date published: 2019-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping and Informative This is a treasure trove of literary lore. The lecturer's eclectic canon from the world's literary heritage is expounded with thumbnail but deep and insightful mastery. He does fade some words though and I could only guess about some of them and forget about the others. His performance never fails to be both gripping and informative.
Date published: 2018-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lecturer Great to hear Dr. Fears land his punches every time. Each lecture is solidly planned and delivered with talent and meaning. He's one of the best professors you offer.
Date published: 2018-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Timeless lessons Rufus Fears left us a classic in understanding great literature. I own all his Great Courses. We are fortunate that he leaves behind these great lectures. We get learn these lessons. Thank you, Dr. Fears.
Date published: 2017-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating story-teller! I bought this course a few weeks ago, and am eager to complete all the lectures. Prof Fears has an uncanny way of drawing the listener into the world of each great book and presenting the life lesson in a clear, yet winsome way. this may well be the most-appreciated set of lectures I have heard so far.
Date published: 2017-09-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fears, the actor, at his best. Very well done. Fears died too early.
Date published: 2017-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life Lessons from the World's Greatest Books. Absolutely great. Broading, enlightening, and informative.
Date published: 2017-06-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Opinionated, but thought-provoking Prof. Fears has an opinion about anything and everything, and sometimes he can come across as arrogant and imbalanced. But he can also be downright inspiring, and he is always thought-provoking, so that the positives considerably outweigh the negatives.
Date published: 2016-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolute Treasure I love almost all of Prof. Fears' courses. I'm not a literature person, but his synopses have helped me to decide what I might actually want to read and what I don't. I highly recommend these. Very entertaining!
Date published: 2016-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Books and a Great Professor The late Professor Fears uses this course as a platform to reflect on important lessons of life, morality, philosophy, religion, and even mortality. Professor Fears uses classic books to illustrate these important life lessons and give various perspectives, including his own in many instances, which obviously some negative reviewers do not like. I felt like an honored student able to just sit and listen to the elderly professor's sage wisdom. Some listeners might not like his approach because the course's viewpoint is more about the life lessons than the books themselves. I, however, found the life lessons portion of the course to be the most rewarding part. This course needs to be approached with a reflective attitude and viewed as an opportunity to possibly gain a little wisdom in addition to knowledge.
Date published: 2016-08-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not worthy I've listened to probably 30+ courses from the Great Courses over the years. Forced myself to finish, but this course was not up to the standards of the Teaching Company. I don't think it's up to the standards of an undergraduate class. Preachy, simplified and lacking nuance, more like a middle school class by a evangelical christian. Also, the summaries of the work often seem a bit off, and the lessons drawn from them are sometimes really odd. The presentation gets tiresome quickly.
Date published: 2016-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from To each their own As a database engineer with 45+ years in the business, I'm ever mindful of the STATISTICS shown in the lower-right of [most every] youtube video. Three (3) things: viewed, thumbs-up, thumbs-down. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE THUMBS-DOWN! However, do the 2nd grade math of the RATIO of non-responses, thumbs-up, & thumbs-down. With 8+ years of that background in technical marketing -- those youtube stats tell me a lot about human nature -- but nothing new about "shoot the messenger". Comments here talk louder about the individuals than the course material: the god haters and god lovers ... so shoot the messenger. HA! Any subject, any forum, any blog -- the same psychological profile with the same opinions. What's the saying? "I played funeral & you didn't cry -- then played wedding and you didn't dance". I've about 40 courses purchased; half philosophical, half scientific. The most outstanding are from Fears and Richard Baum -- the best communicators I've heard in my 68 years. Aside from the subject matter, I learned volumes on the presentation methods and delivery techniques. If Fears taught a course on "why brass doorknobs are better than bronze doorknobs" I would buy it. My regards to you professor!
Date published: 2016-03-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from FEARS for Oklahoma's Youth: Right Wing & Wrong I was horrified by this "Professor." Dr. Fears refers to the Roman Empire as a great, peaceful empire with justice for all its citizens. Except that didn't hold true for all its slaves, women, Jews, freedmen, victims of its wars. And it had an emperor; it wasn't a moderate "democracy" like in its past. He says that Seneca did some "dubious" things, like aiding and abetting numerous murders, but that Seneca writes that evil doesn't affect you if you keep your values. Huh? That's a great life lesson? And on the Gospel of John, he clearly doesn't understand Judea under the Romans as he discusses the "Agreement" the Romans and Jews had. As if the subject people of the Romans were THRILLED the Romans were on hand to overtax them, slaughter them, crucify them by the town-ful. Professor Fears came to his conclusions, then got an education to justify adding a few accurate dates and a lot of misinterpretations to his presentations. If you want a Medieval style education, Professor Fears will provide one. I DO recommend Early Middle Ages, and Everything by Professor Patrick Allitt of Emory; He's a great historian.
Date published: 2016-02-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Overtly Religious Warning - lectures are overtly Christian and preachy. Not part of the course description.
Date published: 2015-09-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Great Course for Southern Baptists Talk about a need for a "trigger warning": recovering religious fundamentalists are going to be suffering serious flashbacks after only the first few lectures of this course. This is my forty-eighth course with the Great Courses. I have always been satisfied although I have never written a review. I've always felt the reviews already available did a fine job covering the courses I'd purchased. But this time I have to write. I have been through only the first five lectures of "Life Lessons," but I've learned (1) Hollywood films can't be uplifting because of their "filthy language," (2) the greatest man who ever lived was Jesus Christ (rivaled only by Socrates), (3) Christian traditions such as the upside-down crucifixion of Saint Peter are historically accurate, (4) The Brothers Karamazov's "Grand Inquisitor" section is pretty much all there is to talk about in that gargantuan Russian novel, and (4) the Holocaust was part of God's grand if yet still mysterious plan for humanity. And all of this is delivered complete with that good old "doncha know" (yes, he really says "doncha know") pulpit-voice modulation. I won't be surprised if in the next five lectures I learn that (1) if it's not the King James Version it's a PER-version, (2) Roman Catholics are idolaters because they worship the Virgin Mary, and (3) God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, doncha know.
Date published: 2015-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional presentation In his presentation of Life Lessons from the Great Books, Professor Fears brings history to life through a wonderful elaboration on the life and times of each of the authors. I've listened to the entire series twice in the first two months since purchasing the course... For someone who never liked literature growing up, I've learned a tremendous amount through Dr. Fears approach of explaining the context around the stories and the authors, enabling a much deeper understanding of the lessons we can all learn from these great books.
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Fears delivers again! I'll buy any course of J. Rufus Fears. "Life Lessons from the Great Books" is so good that I keep pulling the CD's out to listen to them again. My kids even enjoy them, traveling long distances to games and doctor appointments. They've learned more from these courses than they'll ever learn in public school. He qualifies what makes a book a great book. I appreciate that, since some of the so-called great books are not great at all; but given his definition and artful presentation of the books in this course, I see why they are great, and can now discern what are great books to me. Buy this course. You will enjoy it.
Date published: 2015-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This will get you hooked! If there is one set in the greatest courses to get you started down the road of great intellectual inquiry, this is it. I bought this course years ago I have found myself going back to it. Friends in the car on long trips have been similarly impressed. Buy this one on CD or audio download. A terrific starter course.
Date published: 2014-12-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A fine selection of books, except ... This was a fine selection of books, most of them drawn from the Western canon, and Professor Fears presents them in an interesting way. Having said that, I take exception to his final selection (Theodore Roosevelt), which negates the very idea of Great Books. Fears says, "The idea of a five-foot shelf of classics that every educated person should read was popular in Roosevelt's time. But Roosevelt believed that people should read whatever appeals to them." And again, "there is no such thing as a universal canon." Oh, really? When I was about 12 year old, reading Hardy Boys mysteries and Nancy drew books "appealed" to me, but would I consider them to be great literature? Definitely not! If comic books are what "appeal" to you, should you never strive for anything more substantial? Apparently Thedore Roosevelt thought so! Moreover, Professor Fears' remark demeans the Harvard Classics of 1909, also know as Dr.Eliot's Five Foot Shelf of Books, a wonderful collection of 50 volumes assembled by Dr. Charles William Elliot, the longest serving president of Harvard University. There you will find works by Dante, Cervantes, John Henry Newman, John Stuart Mill, and many others - none of whom were covered in Professor Fears' course - the legacy of Western literature, books that do in fact deserve to be preserved, respected, and read. This is not to say that this course was without merit; I enjoyed it, and especially the Professor's discussion of The Journals of Lewis and Clark, and T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. But I really think, he should have given TR the broom. You already included Washington and Lincoln, Professor Fears; I think that having TR in there also, just because he was a US President, by accident no less, is a little too much. If you had to end your course with an American autobiography, how about the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, or, for an autobiography a little more modern and universal, the Memoirs of Andrei Sakharov?
Date published: 2014-11-20
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Seneca-"On Providence"
1: Seneca-"On Providence"

In this introductory lecture, Professor Fears explains how wisdom enables us to take information and apply it to our lives. You begin with the Roman Empire and Seneca's "On Providence," which asserts that evil cannot befall a truly good man because, if a man believes that God is good, then there is no real evil....

32 min
The Gospel of John
2: The Gospel of John

Learn how the Gospel of John differs from the other synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in both its majestic language and the ways it reveals Jesus's character. This text can teach you that the message of a single teacher can be more powerful than the rule of a massive empire....

30 min
Boethius, Martin Luther King-Conscience
3: Boethius, Martin Luther King-Conscience

See how Boethius's On the Consolation of Philosophy instructs us on how true wisdom resides in recognizing the harm caused by returning evil with evil. Also, see Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" as a profound testimony to our ability to change the world....

30 min
Dostoevsky-The Brothers Karamazov
4: Dostoevsky-The Brothers Karamazov

Evil, suffering, and death have important purposes that we oftentimes can't understand, according to Professor Fears. In this lecture, see how Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov explores the depths of the Russian soul and teaches us about the very meaning of human existence....

30 min
Elie Wiesel-Night
5: Elie Wiesel-Night

Elie Wiesel's Night shows us how we can triumph as individuals in the face of great evil. In this lecture, you examine Wiesel's life and family before the Holocaust and witness how he survived the worst genocide in history. Both Wiesel's life and his novel are testaments to the unconquerable human spirit....

30 min
Schweitzer-Out of My Life and Thought
6: Schweitzer-Out of My Life and Thought

Albert Schweitzer was one of the greatest humanitarians of his time. His autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought, is a fascinating study of his spiritual journey bringing modern medicine to Africa. Learn how this work teaches us that our very humanity rests on our reverence for all life....

30 min
Goethe-The Sufferings of Young Werther
7: Goethe-The Sufferings of Young Werther

Discover how Goethe advises us to move on with our lives rather than succumb to the tragic fate of lovesickness in The Sufferings of Young Werther. The most famous literary figure of his day, Goethe based the work on his own near-tragic experience with unrequited love....

30 min
8: Shakespeare-Hamlet

A meditation on the perils and merits of revenge, Shakespeare's Hamlet demonstrates its author's keen understanding of human motivations. The greatest lesson to be learned from this Great Book, you find, is this: Move on-vengeance will change nothing....

30 min
9: Sophocles-Ajax

Learn how Sophocles' Ajax examines the ideas of pride and honor. Set against the violent backdrop of the Trojan War, this tragedy teaches us that even the best human qualities can become destructive when pushed to excess....

30 min
Plato-Epistle VII
10: Plato-Epistle VII

Plato's Epistle VII is a revealing and rewarding study of how even great philosophers can make nearly fatal mistakes. In this lecture, read the iconic Greek philosopher's letter as a valuable lesson on how to admit mistakes....

30 min
Cicero-"On Old Age"
11: Cicero-"On Old Age"

The Roman answer to Plato, Cicero achieved a successful legal career before entering the tumultuous world of politics. Investigate Cicero's "On Old Age" and his beliefs that older people are beneficial to society because of their experience, wisdom, and good judgment-despite what young people may say....

30 min
Isaac Bashevis Singer-The Penitent
12: Isaac Bashevis Singer-The Penitent

The Penitent, written by Nobel Prize winner Isaac Singer, is a powerful tale of a Jewish man who achieves worldly success in New York City but soon realizes how hollow that success is. The Penitentteaches us the lesson that the only reason to live a long life is to continue growing and developing....

30 min
13: Euripides-Alcestis

What do we mean when we talk about true love? Greek tragedies like Euripides' Alcestis teach us that anything taken to excess-even something good-leads to destruction. In Alcestis's self-sacrifice for her husband's immortality, you find the higher ideal of love that leads us to put others before ourselves....

30 min
14: Euripides-Medea

Turn from the idea of love as self-sacrifice to the idea of love as all-consuming hatred. In Euripides' Medea, the jealous title character's passion for revenge is so potent that she slays her own children to punish her husband for his infidelity....

30 min
Von Strasburg-Tristan and Isolde
15: Von Strasburg-Tristan and Isolde

Tristan and Isolde teaches us about the overwhelming power of love to make people abandon codes of honor and betray those to whom they owe the most. In this lecture, consider how the tragedy also instructs us on the medieval ideal of human passion as an allegory for the love of God....

30 min
Shakespeare-Antony and Cleopatra
16: Shakespeare-Antony and Cleopatra

Explore yet another side of the power of love in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. In this tragedy, learn how a man of enormous talent and opportunity can throw away world rule for the love of a woman. What makes this lesson all the more effective? Its basis in historical fact....

30 min
17: Shakespeare-Macbeth

Like his Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare's Macbeth depicts the use of love as a tool for achieving power. You see how Lady Macbeth uses her husband as a surrogate for authority and fuels his decisions with her misguided love-a plan that contributes to the play's tragic outcome....

30 min
Aldous Huxley-Brave New World
18: Aldous Huxley-Brave New World

In contrast to earlier works that deal with the theme of love, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World takes you to a society devoid of love-one where sex and reproduction happen outside the world of affection and relationships. Professor Fears emphasizes how this futuristic satire is a warning about the perils of technology for humanity....

30 min
19: Homer-Odyssey

Begin your look at what lessons can be found in history's great adventure stories by studying Homer's Odyssey. The epitome of adventure tales, Odyssey teaches us invaluable lessons about how to survive in a world of temptations, dangers, and questionable decisions....

30 min
20: Sophocles-Philoctetes

Focus on Sophocles' Philoctetes as a lesson in the cruel business of war. Even though war brings untold suffering, wisdom and redemption can still emerge. This powerful lesson, you learn, is one that each generation must learn anew....

29 min
The Song of Roland-Chivalric Adventure
21: The Song of Roland-Chivalric Adventure

A tale of bravery, treachery, and loyalty to one's faith, the French epic The Song of Roland teaches us that honor is an external value. Explore how The Song of Roland also warns us about the destructive nature of honor when pushed too far....

30 min
Nibelungenlied-Chivalric Romance
22: Nibelungenlied-Chivalric Romance

Composed around A.D. 1200, the Nibelungenlied is a masterpiece of medieval literature. Examine how this Great Book brings together a number of themes from the course, including the creative and destructive power of love and how to courageously find one's destiny....

30 min
Lewis and Clark-Journals
23: Lewis and Clark-Journals

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark lived one of the greatest adventures in history: the exploration of the Louisiana Purchase. This scientific and diplomatic mission was detailed in The Journals of Lewis and Clark, which you consider as a way to get valuable lessons on both friendship and personal destiny....

30 min
T. E. Lawrence-Seven Pillars of Wisdom
24: T. E. Lawrence-Seven Pillars of Wisdom

T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, lived a life of grand adventure. His life story, recorded in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, provides you with the perfect image of a man of destiny-one whose imprint is still left on the map of the Middle East and in the hearts of anyone longing for personal challenge....

31 min
25: Aristophanes-Comedies

Laughter is a universal human action. In the first of a series of lectures about lessons of laughter and irony, you investigate the comedies of Aristophanes-including Acharnians, Peace, and Lysistrata-and how they reflected the mood of the Athenian people during the Peloponnesian War....

30 min
Menander-The Grouch
26: Menander-The Grouch

Menander's The Grouch tells a humorous tale of love hindered by a grumpy old man who is protective of his daughter and who is rescued from a well into which he has fallen by her would-be suitor. An important lesson you glean from this Great Book is that making happiness your ultimate goal leads to true happiness....

30 min
Machiavelli-La Mandragola
27: Machiavelli-La Mandragola

When we are seduced and betrayed, it is often because we have seduced and betrayed ourselves. See how this unpleasant point is illustrated in Machiavelli's Italian comedy about love, lust, and betrayal: La Mandragola (The Mandrake)....

30 min
Erasmus-In Praise of Folly
28: Erasmus-In Praise of Folly

Erasmus's In Praise of Folly is written as a speech given by Folly, personified as a clown. This Great Book teaches us how to step back, see ourselves as others see us, and frequently pause to laugh at ourselves and our follies....

30 min
Thomas More-Utopia
29: Thomas More-Utopia

While Erasmus teaches us to see ourselves as others see us individually, Thomas More (a close friend of Erasmus) does so nationally in Utopia. More conceived of Utopia as the tale of a mythic land where all goods are held in common and all needs are fully met....

30 min
George Orwell-Animal Farm
30: George Orwell-Animal Farm

Learn how George Orwell's Animal Farm uses social satire to bring attention to conditions in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. This scathing critique of the dangers of Communism under a ruthless dictator was aimed at exposing the evils of totalitarianism....

30 min
Josephus-History of the Jewish War
31: Josephus-History of the Jewish War

Focus now on the final universal theme of the course: patriotism. Come to see History of the Jewish War by the historian Flavius Josephus as a moving lesson in the human love of freedom. To fight and die in the noble cause of freedom, you learn, should never be considered a defeat....

30 min
Joseph Addison-Cato
32: Joseph Addison-Cato

Although not commonly read today, Joseph Addison's Cato was one of the most influential intellectual models for the American Revolution. This 1713 play-about the struggle of the Roman Cato the Younger under the tyranny of Julius Caesar-has much to teach us about the ideals of our nation....

30 min
George Washington-Farewell Address
33: George Washington-Farewell Address

As a general and a president, George Washington was a great model of civic virtue and patriotism. His farewell address, an open letter to the American people, addresses national issues still with us today, including party division, foreign policy, and fiscal responsibility....

31 min
Abraham Lincoln, George Patton-War
34: Abraham Lincoln, George Patton-War

Explore the many ways in which war defines what it means to be patriotic by looking at two great wartime leaders: Abraham Lincoln and George S. Patton. Lincoln's 1864 letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby teaches us about the costs of personal sacrifice, while Patton's life and career as told in War as I Knew It teach us about valor in the midst of battle....

30 min
Theodore Roosevelt-An Autobiography
35: Theodore Roosevelt-An Autobiography

Chronicle the development of Theodore Roosevelt's ideas and his rise to political fame, as detailed in An Autobiography. Roosevelt's travels into and exploration of the American frontier helped him-and can help you-understand what makes a political leader truly great....

31 min
The Wisdom of Great Books
36: The Wisdom of Great Books

Professor Fears concludes the course by reminding you about the tried-and-true lessons to be found in the pages of Great Books. Although the world has changed throughout the course of human history, themes such as love, courage, and patriotism have always been-and will continue to be-part of our lives....

32 min
J. Rufus Fears

We are no wiser than the Athenians of the 5th century B.C., no wiser than Sophocles for our science of today has shown us the overwhelming power of genes, of DNA.


Harvard University


University of Oklahoma

About J. Rufus Fears

Dr. J. Rufus Fears was David Ross Boyd Professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma, where he held the G. T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty. He also served as David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Professor Fears was Professor of History and Distinguished Faculty Research Lecturer at Indiana University, and Professor of Classical Studies at Boston University. An acclaimed teacher and scholar with more than 25 awards for teaching excellence, Professor Fears was chosen Professor of the Year on three occasions by students at the University of Oklahoma. His other accolades included the Medal for Excellence in College and University Teaching from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA) Great Plains Region Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the UCEA's National Award for Teaching Excellence. Professor Fears's books and monographs include The Cult of Jupiter and Roman Imperial Ideology and The Theology of Victory at Rome. He edited a three-volume edition of Selected Writings of Lord Acton. His discussions of the Great Books have appeared in newspapers across the country and have aired on national television and radio programs. Professor Fears passed away in October 2012.

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